A fragile ceasefire has taken hold in Syria with accounts of skirmishes

A ceasefire has come into effect for Eid al-Adha on Friday, although several accounts of fighting have been reported. Late Thursday the Syrian government agreed to a four-day truce proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but said it reserved the right to retaliate against opposition attacks. The opposition Free Syrian Army said ...

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A Syrian family crosses a flooded avenue in the northern city of Aleppo, on October 25, 2012. The Syrian military and the country's main rebel force have agreed to halt combat operations from Friday morning for the Muslim holiday weekend, but both also reserved the right to respond to attacks. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

A ceasefire has come into effect for Eid al-Adha on Friday, although several accounts of fighting have been reported. Late Thursday the Syrian government agreed to a four-day truce proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but said it reserved the right to retaliate against opposition attacks. The opposition Free Syrian Army said it would comply as long as the government adheres to it. However, other opposition factions said they would not stop fighting. Syria has appeared much calmer although clashes have broken out in several locations. Protesters have taken to the streets across the country calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. Clashes broke out Friday morning at an army base near Maaret al-Numan, where opposition fighters have been trying to overtake the military installation along a strategic highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian army fired six rockets at the Khalidiya district of Homs. According to other reports, Syrian troops have hit Hajar al-Aswad, a poor district of Damascus, and violence was reported in the Damascus suburb of Harasta. In Aleppo, opposition forces were reported to have made significant gains. An earlier ceasefire negotiated by Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan, failed to take hold, but did reduce the casualty count for several days. Brahimi has said he hopes that the temporary truce will allow for a sustainable political process.

Headlines  

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has formed a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman's nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, widening the divisions between Israel's left and right camps. Intelligence officials have reported Iran is nearing completion of its underground nuclear enrichment plant, Fordo, despite unprecedented sanctions and a plummeting economy. A French poll has found a majority of people in the country believes Islam plays too significant a role in French society and threatens the national identity showing a hardening of public opinion.

A ceasefire has come into effect for Eid al-Adha on Friday, although several accounts of fighting have been reported. Late Thursday the Syrian government agreed to a four-day truce proposed by U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but said it reserved the right to retaliate against opposition attacks. The opposition Free Syrian Army said it would comply as long as the government adheres to it. However, other opposition factions said they would not stop fighting. Syria has appeared much calmer although clashes have broken out in several locations. Protesters have taken to the streets across the country calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. Clashes broke out Friday morning at an army base near Maaret al-Numan, where opposition fighters have been trying to overtake the military installation along a strategic highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian army fired six rockets at the Khalidiya district of Homs. According to other reports, Syrian troops have hit Hajar al-Aswad, a poor district of Damascus, and violence was reported in the Damascus suburb of Harasta. In Aleppo, opposition forces were reported to have made significant gains. An earlier ceasefire negotiated by Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, failed to take hold, but did reduce the casualty count for several days. Brahimi has said he hopes that the temporary truce will allow for a sustainable political process.

Headlines  

  • Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has formed a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman’s nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu, widening the divisions between Israel’s left and right camps.
  • Intelligence officials have reported Iran is nearing completion of its underground nuclear enrichment plant, Fordo, despite unprecedented sanctions and a plummeting economy.
  • A French poll has found a majority of people in the country believes Islam plays too significant a role in French society and threatens the national identity showing a hardening of public opinion.

Arguments and Analysis

Syria: Despite Denials, More Cluster Bomb Attacks (Human Rights Watch)

"Mounting evidence shows that Syria‘s air force is continuing to drop cluster bombs on towns across five governorates despite the Syrian army’s denial that it is using them, Human Rights Watch said today.  Data compiled by Human Rights Watch shows an important increase in the use of cluster bombs in the past two weeks. The cluster bomb strikes are part of an intensifying air campaign by government forces on rebel-held areas that has included dropping high explosive, fragmentation, and even improvised "barrel" bombs into populated areas.

Following an October 14, 2012 report by Human Rights Watch on Syria’s use of cluster bombs, Syria’s army issued a statement denying it was using cluster bombs and saying it did not possess such weapons. Since then, Human Rights Watch has gathered new evidence of ongoing cluster bomb attacks by Syria’s air force and has confirmed them through interviews with victims, other residents and activists who filmed the cluster munitions, as well as analysis of 64 videos and also photos showing weapon remnants of 10 new cluster bomb strikes in or near the towns of Salkeen and Kfar Takharim in the Northern governorate of Idlib; Eastern al-Buwayda, Talbiseh, Rastan, and Qusayr in Homs governorate; al-Bab in Aleppo governorate; al-Duwair and al-Salheya in Deir al-Zor governorate; and Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus."

Poorly Learned Lessons About Terrorism (Paul Pillar, The National Interest)

"Feature articles over the last couple of days in the Washington Post and New York Times demonstrate how counterterrorism as practiced by the United States is subject to contradictory forces and trends. A series in the Post describes how the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism has become an increasingly institutionalized killing machine that appears destined to operate indefinitely against a continually replenished list of targets. A piece in the Times describes a backlash over the monetary expense and compromises to privacy and civil liberties, a backlash that seems strong enough to force changes in counterterrorist programs. The different directions implied by this reporting reflect how the nation has failed to assimilate some basic principles about terrorism and measures to counter it.

One of those principles is that terrorism is not something with a beginning and an end. It is instead a tactic that has persisted throughout history. And yet the notion of a beginning and an end persists in thinking in this country about terrorism. The counterterrorism machine has gotten cranked up to run in ways that would not be acceptable to most Americans if it were to run forever, and yet there is no evident point at which, once turned on, it should be turned off. It was inevitable that a backlash would set in."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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